11 February 2007

Achieving Self-Actualization with Bacon

Maple-Glazed Bacon on Gorgonzola Polenta Squares
(Bacon is caramelized in a low-heat oven with brown sugar,
walnuts, and pure maple syrup.)

I have taken the liberty of amending Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs to plan out my journey towards self-actualization. It is my sincerest hope that others will find this revision useful in their individual pursuits of life-fulfillment.

According to Abraham Maslow, a mid-century American psychologist, every human can reach his or her maximum potential once he or she has become self-actualized. What is self-actualization? Well, think of people you know who are generally good-natured, thoughtful, intelligent, wise, mature, tolerant, motivated, appreciative, creative, friendly, helpful, non-judgmental, and who don’t have many problems, as far as you can tell. And if they do have problems, they don’t complain about them too much and they quickly figure them out and move on. Basically, they are the most complete and most awesome people that you know.

Those people are most likely self-actualized. They have taken care of their basic human needs, they are not worried about finances, they are not lonely, they have a healthy but not over-bearing sense of self-esteem, they feel needed and respected in their various communities, and they have transcended into the top level of Maslow’s pyramid, where they can work towards the highest level of personal growth, unburdened by the worldly anxieties that the rest of us deal with on a daily basis.
It might sound like I’m jealous of the self-actualized, but really, I’m not. Self-fulfilled superhumans have worked very hard to get where they are, and the rest of us will get there someday, assuming we were born with good luck and the right personality traits.

As you can see from the above diagram, I have developed a catalyst that will expedite our progress towards self-actualization:

Introduce bacon into the Level of Human Needs in which you currently exist, and you will automatically be bumped to the next highest stage of human growth. Follow my logic:

Imagine that you are stuck on the most basic level, the Physiological Level. You can’t seem to get the hang of breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, and excretion. Well, I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, that I like eating bacon more than I like pooping. If this preference applies to you as well, next time you have to go to the bathroom, just make bacon instead. Then you will have conquered one of your most basic human needs and proved yourself worthy of Level Two.

Now that you are on Level Two, you have become acutely aware of your need for safety. My advice is to always carry bacon around in your pocket. If you are ever in a sword fight or any other situation in which you feel like that life is in danger, offer your assailant a piece of warm, crispy bacon. He or she will automatically back down and leave you safely sailing on toward the bright horizons of Level Three.

Welcome to Level Three, the Level of Love and Belonging, where you need to get people to love you in order to move on. It’s no secret that the fastest way to people’s hearts is through their bellies, so feed your friends and loved ones bacon all the time, and you will secure a warm place in their hearts faster than a fat pug can eat a plateful of semi-cooled bacon grease.

Now you are on Level Four, the hardest level to pass because you can’t fool yourself into having good self-esteem. Solution: Repeat after me: “I'm good enough to eat bacon, I'm smart enough to make bacon, and gosh darn it, people like me when I make bacon!” Instant self-esteem and a free ticket to Level Five.

Congratulations, you are now self-actualized. What were once heavy burdens of daily life are now delightful joys that you feel blessed to partake in, and you are free to experience life to its fullest. Your new personality characteristics that you automatically receive as a benefit of self-actualization are:

Morality (It’s ethical to eat bacon, what else are they going to do with all that pig fat?)
Creativity (How many different ways can I make bacon today?)
Spontaneity (Let’s make bacon right NOW!)
Problem Solving (I seem to be gaining weight…it must be because of all the pig fat I am ingesting, I am so smart!)
Lack of Prejudice (Lots of people eat bacon, therefore we are all the same and I love everybody.)
Acceptance of facts (You got more bacon than I did, and I’m okay with that. I also accept the fact that you’re an insensitive, self-indulgent glutton.)

Like many children, I wanted so badly to possess superhuman powers, mainly flying, talking to animals, and moving things with my eyeballs. As I grew older, took some psychology classes, and realized the futility of my dreams (in that order, of course), my fantasies of developing magical powers slowly transformed into hopes of one day becoming self-actualized.

I’m pretty sure that before today, I was on Level Four. But then I wrote that part about liking bacon more than pooping, and I think I might have lost some respect from people who think that's gross, and I so dropped back down to Level Three.

Fortunately, I have Maple-Glazed Bacon on Gorgonzola Polenta Squares, which I need way more than any of Maslow’s aforementioned needs, and if eating these transcendentally delicious appetizers doesn’t get me closer to self-fulfillment, than there is nothing on this planet that can.

Maple-Glazed Bacon on Gorgonzola Polenta Squares
~from Bon App├ętit February 2007

1 ½ cups whole milk
1 ½ cups chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta (or coarse corn-meal)
¾ cup coarsely crumbled Gorgonzola cheese or other blue cheese

1 pound thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
½ cup walnuts
¼ cup pure maple syrup

Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in polenta (or cornmeal). Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until polenta is thick enough to come away from sides of pan, stirring almost constantly, about 15 minutes. Mix in cheese. Spread polenta evenly in 9x9x2-inch pan. Chill until cold and firm, at least 2 hours and up to one day.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 250 degrees Farenheit. Arrange bacon in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Using on / off turns, blend sugar, walnuts, and maple syrup in processor until nuts are chopped and a crumbly texture forms. Sprinkle mixture over bacon. Bake until topping is caramelized and bacon is cooked through but still flexible, about one hour. Cool 10 minutes. Cut crosswise into 1-inch squares.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Cut polenta into 1-inch squares; place on rimmed baking sheet; top each polenta square with a bacon piece. This can be done up to 1 day ahead if chilled.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Bake polenta uncovered until heated through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter and hot serve hot.


Innommable said...

Wow. I REALLY want to make that!

Shannon said...

Bwah ha ha! Maslow in action. LOVE it. Also, think I may fall in love wih that recipe. I must try it.

aria said...

haha, i can't believe you just admted publicly to liking bacon more than poopin'. your an excellent writer erielle. awesome post and mmmmm, bacon polenta squares, droooool!

rob said...

Where the hell were you when I was stuck in first year psych? That lecture was sixty minutes of my life I'll never get back, when all I really needed was a few minutes reading your blog. Such a great post. I actually dragged my wife over to laugh along with me.

tammy said...

You are so very right, sister. Bacon is the best catalyst to all that is worthwhile in this life.

Brilynn said...

I could not agree more. Now you just have to take that extra step and make your own bacon. I tell you, it's amazing!

Food Marathon said...

And with that you've just moved to the top of my favorite-people-in-the-world list. Congratulations and thank for the thorough analysis.

J said...

You may very well be the smartest person on earth.

Erielle said...

Innommable, you'll love them!

Shannon, glad you liked it!

Aria, I knew you wouldn't be grossed out by the mention of poopin'! Thanks for the kind words.

Rob, maybe I should send my revisions to some textbook companies to see if they would like to publish the new version, so others wouldn't have to suffer like you did. I'm so happy you got a kick out of it!

Tammy, mmmmmm.....bacon.....

Brilynn, you make your own bacon? That's incredible! Did you write about it on your blog? I shall jaunt over there right now to see. Making my own bacon is definitely something to look forward to when I am self-actualized and ready to move towards higher personal growth.

Food Marathon, that rocks! I feel honored. I think I might only be one other person's favorite person. We like to eat bacon together.

J, hee hee! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. It was superfun to write. I feel .5% closer to self-actualization now.

Freya said...

That's the funniest thing I've read all day. Never mind the fact that I've only read customers files, this is a great post! I always knew that with bacon people could achieve that higher state of mind..

Kristen said...

You crack me up! I had such a good laugh this morning... great post!

Gourmet Peasant said...

My neighbors are actually cooking bacon as I read this post, I can smell it! Think would it be weird if I went over and asked them for a peice?

Leslie said...

I think you should take this to other theoretical venues ... bacon and Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development? This is brilliant :-)

Ariyana said...

Made this for VDay. Everyone knows men love both bacon and cheese for VDay.

Note to all: you need, like, *2* slices of bacon, tops, for 2 people.

(I had a lot of extra, and nothing really to do with it -- and mine was far too salty and strong to enjoy standalone)

I was worried as I made it -- the bacon and polenta bits I tasted separately in advance, and said to myself "Whoa, strong!" but when combined, it worked out nicely.

Drank a nice burgundy with this. It was great.

Linda said...

This was the most intriguing and thought provoking post that I came across in the whole day!!Awesome!!Would try out the recipe out!!

Erielle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erielle said...

Freya, I'm glad I could break up the files with some silliness.

Kristen, thanks!

Gourment Peasant, I think it might have been a little weird, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have done it. I always say being weird is better than being boring.

Leslie, I think you have just stumbled upon the path to human justice and world peace...using bacon to appeal to people's sense of morality. But what if people don't like bacon?

Ariyana, thanks for sharing the tip. You mean between you and your man only ate two pieces of bacon between the two of you? Incredible willpower, I say. Well, I suppose when you add the sugar and the nuts and the syrup and the corn and the cheese, even one bite is quite an event. Glad you liked them.

Linda, thanks! I hope you get the chance to try them out someday.

Tim said...

Finally I have a basis for understanding why I truely adore bacon - it is because Maslow said I need it!

mae said...

Mmmmmm... maple glazed bacon. I love the squares. I bet it was so yummy!


Chocolate Covered Bacon said...

It is the highest in the hierarchy of needs to an individual to get the tip of self actualization. It has been known that bacon is a good ingredient for any recipe at home. This is very important to know what we want and be able to do it, successful in doing it.